India, planning $1.4 billion of solar-thermal power stations, expects half of the projects to be delayed and some to be scrapped as U.S. supplies stall and dust- clouds diffuse the radiation required to drive generation.
Of the 500 megawatts of projects due to be completed in February and May, only a third of that capacity may be ready on time, said Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. Three of the 10 ventures are unlikely to be built, he said in an interview in New Delhi.
The delays are a blow to General Electric Co. (GE), Siemens AG (SIE) and Areva SA (AREVA), which have acquired stakes in solar-thermal equipment makers since 2009 on the expectation the technology could compete with coal- and gas-fired power. Solar-thermal plants, which focus sunlight on liquids to produce steam and drive turbines, can store energy, allowing electricity to be delivered around the clock.
“Solar-thermal projects are heavy engineering projects, carried out in hostile conditions, and even the most experienced firms have built only a few, and not always with perfect success,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “It’s not surprising delays are common.”
The government hasn’t decided whether it’ll penalize projects that miss completion deadlines, according to Kapoor. “We don’t want them to fail,” he said. “We want to see them built.”
India has promoted solar energy to boost generation capacity and cut chronic electricity shortages. Insufficient coal and gas for conventional thermal-power plants has prompted the central government to hold clean-energy capacity auctions as it pursues a solar output target of 20,000 megawatts by 2022, a 20-fold increase.
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